There never was anything in pop culture like the Death of Superman. For those who weren’t reading comics or following superheroes in the ‘90s, there’s no way to describe the energy that seemed to permeate everywhere in the world when the Man of Tomorrow fell.
One November day in 5th grade I remember every kid at recess talking about it. I had started reading comics a bit the summer before, and it just couldn’t register with my ten year old brain that Superman had been killed.
I mean… SUPERMAN!!??
By the time I got around to accepting what had happened, Superman #75, where it all went down, was either sold out everywhere or nowhere near affordable to me. Each issue sold like crazy and received several printings, and the eventual trade paperback became the highest selling tpb in history. The black bag, the arm band, the image of the tattered cape flapping in the wind on top of rubble became iconic. News clips of lines around the corner of the local comic shop and people grabbing bundles also ran across the airwaves. It was nothing short of earth shattering!
Forty year old me had a smidgen of all of that emotion when I went to my local comic store last week to buy the 30th Anniversary special. I didn’t see too many younger fans where I was shopping, but plenty of guys my age (yes, I know, that made me sound old…) were there sharing stories and buying copies of the new black bag, including me. The feeling was indescribable.
Kudos to DC Comics for putting the band back together and doing an 80-page special with the same four creative teams who were on the Superman books in 1992. The special contains four stories, each starring characters with a different angle of the event. Let’s see how each one of them held up!
Story #1: Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding
In my personal opinion, this team was the best of the bunch during the Superman books of the ‘90s. Mr. Dan Jurgens’ writing is always great, and his art has never looked better than when inked by Brett Breeding. Recent inkers Dan has used have been okay, but Breeding was a cut above. The fact that they’ve reunited for this story is just awesome, even if modern day digital coloring doesn’t quite give their work the same effect.
Theirs is the longest story in this issue, at about fifty pages, and is set during Rebirth, so that makes me happy! It follows Jon coming to grips with learning about his father’s death and resurrection, with a new villain named Doombreaker in the background. Superman fights Doombreaker in a Doomsday-esque battle, with some nods to the original fight with Doomsday thrown in.
I think this story suffers from trying to do way too much in too little space. The Doombreaker baddie is built up to be an epic fight but ultimately falls a little flat. Both the battle and the explanation of his origin take place in the equivalent of two issues, where it feels it needs about six. Jon’s personal story and how it effects his family is a good one, and is given a tad more room to breathe, but not by much, and it also feels a little hollow by the end. This is always a challenge with anthology issues though- trying to do a complete story in a limited amount of space. Jurgens has done this well elsewhere, but I’m afraid not as much here. By far the strength of this story for me is the fact that it’s a nod to Rebirth and the Death of Superman, so that is good.
The rest of the stories are much shorter at ten pages each, so…
Story #2: Jerry Ordway and Tom Grummett
During the battle with Doomsday, Clark’s parents are watching him on tv and reminisce about all the good he’s done in the world. A good little yarn but not so much a story as additional exposition “between the panels.”
Story #3: Roger Stern and Butch Guice
This was probably my favorite of the bunch, as Jim Harper, aka Guardian, follows Superman and Doomsday during the battle. All the while we see him interact with characters from the Cadmus Project, very relevant during this era, and perform deeds of heroism on the side. Guice’s art, which has evolved considerably since the ‘90s, looks like he went back to that style, impressively. Good story and good art.
Story #4: Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove
This story follows John Henry Irons before he became Steel and sees him helping innocent bystanders in Metropolis during the fight. I respect but never cared for Bogdanove’s style personally, and sadly it seems he’s regressed a bit. Simonson, however, seems to have become a much better writer since the ‘90s and I’ve enjoyed her output ever since, including here. It does finally give an explanation to John Henry’s first appearance at the end of Adventures of Superman #500, so that is a plus.
All in all, this issue was enjoyable enough, but the contents did feel rushed. Odd to think of when you consider how this book was promoted for the better part of 2022, so you’d think everyone had plenty of time to do their story. I’m told Dan Jurgens’ piece does lead into some things he’s planning to touch on in his Lois & Clark sequel series, so I’ll look forward to that.
I’m happy that a lot of these creators still have the same abilities and talents they did in 1992, and the combination of all of them in one issue is really special. I’ve already preordered my copy of the 30th Anniversary deluxe edition of the Death of Superman, with more extras and interviews with the creators, which will continue the celebration later this year. That said, I’m afraid that nostalgia carries the day here more than anything…
… and that’s not so bad!
Capeage Meter: 8 of 10